Before I turned 50, I didn’t go to the gym 100 times. Now I go regularly. Many guys my age perceive their muscles are melting like candle wax. I don’t want to be one of them.

Fortunately, my trainer is a challenging, inspiring, fit fellow. His philosophy is: Find your limit and then push till muscle failure. It doesn’t hurt the first 30 seconds. Yet in the last 30 seconds I’m panting and in pain. In the last 15 seconds I’m near screaming, sometimes my limbs are shaking or my muscles are twitching.

“It’s only temporary. Just go a little bit longer.” When I’m certain there’s nothing left, he says, “OK, now hold that there.” He waits three seconds and then starts counting “Five… Four…Three… Two … One … Now down as slowly as you can. “

It sometimes takes me almost 2 minutes to walk the 20 paces to the next workstation. Later in the week I push to collapse again, mostly with a different set of muscles.

The good news is that my bride of 40+ years is glad to see some definition instead of just loose flab.

“To test your limits, you must know your limits,” according to extreme athletes. I’m not an extreme athlete. My coach has discovered my limits and always has me pushing them.

You build your love, your courage, your trust, or your work production with a similar approach. Malcolm Gladwell calls it “deliberate practice.” Aim for something important and just beyond your current capacity. When you reach that skill or capacity, it is time to stretch just bit more.

It’s hard, damned hard. Almost everybody who seeks excellence, including duffers like me, do something similar. You can’t improve without effort and discomfort. I’m not special; I’m just in the tribe that wants to contribute more.

A line from a country song sums it up pretty well.

“There ain’t no limit in this life to how far you can get;
But if you’re going all the way, you gotta break a sweat.”

Much of our society emphasizes comfort, convenience, and avoiding pain. Coasting doesn’t benefit others, doesn’t produce a vaccine in record time, doesn’t cure cancer, doesn’t bring justice to the oppressed, comfort the hurting or protect the vulnerable. It doesn’t build wealth or lead a life worth imitating.

When I stumble out of the gym, few would be impressed with the result. I’ll never win a power lift competition. Others’ opinions are immaterial. I’ve done what I could. Coach John Wooden would approve.

The discipline matters more than the pounds moved. Discipline is remembering who you are and striving for what you want to become.

What you strive and stretch for?

How do you do it?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

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